MY OLD SWEETHEART by Susanna Moore


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Shimmering with a siren resonance, this sleek, arresting first novel--set in the lush, pristine landscape of 1950s Hawaii--explores the fantastic depths of a woman's obsession with her lost, all-too-vividly remembered mother. As a child, Lily adores mother Anna--as does everyone else in the Big House in Hawaii: young siblings Jack and Jessie; TÖsi Lily's Japanese ""twin"" of mysterious origins (born of a dead mother in Hiroshima, rescued by Lily's doctor-father Sheridan); the servants. But everyone also knows that Anna, a Catholic ex-nurse from a Philadelphia tenement, is ""a woman in enormous trouble""--who takes pills, tells lies, and centers her life in a fierce passion for husband Sheridan, a cool aesthete ""not overly concerned with the rightness or wrongness of what people did."" And since Sheridan prefers the unstudied, ingenuous attractions of native-girl Christmas, the children are bewildered, fearful witnesses to Anna's cycles: her sensuous extravagance (a ball cape made of hundreds of white gardenias); her wicked hilarity (a Halloween heist of a stolid neighbor's silver); and her zig-zag, darting flights toward extinction--via drugs, a mental hospital, and eventual suicide. But Anna's death does not mean the end of Anna for Lily: she keeps searching for her. First, on the verge of adolescence, Lily--sensing Anna-like doom at the magic door of femaleness--feels herself, in fantasy, expanding like Alice to a great terrifying height, tinkling the ballroom chandeliers. And much later, still obsessed, Lily will learn to free herself and her own daughter from possession: with TÖsi, she goes on a nightmare-search for father Sheridan in Cambodia, is able to forgive him . . . and can then turn to a true, vital, un-phantomed love. With luxurious imagery and prose that sparkles and snaps like sea grass: an alluring fiction debut.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin